JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – ETSU football reached another milestone marker of the 2023 preseason, as the team took the field at William B. Greene Jr. Stadium for the first scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday.
While the defense answered the bell early in the session, the offense found its footing late, scoring five touchdowns on the day.
The opening two drives saw the offense push the ball into plus territory, only to be stood up by the first-team defense. Both of those drives ended with missed field goals.
Freshman Ray Coney paced the defense with five solo tackles, a forced fumble, a sack and a pair of tackles for loss. Veteran defensive back Shelton Arnold and transfer linebacker Trevor Thompson also tallied five tackles apiece.
Redshirt-freshman Tyree Rainey also came up with the lone interception of the afternoon, snagging a ball away from Cameron Lewis in the endzone.
“Took a little bit time heating up,” Thompson said afterwards. “But, when we got the rhythm going, everyone started doing their responsibilities and taking care of everything on the field.”
“I thought defense kind of you know stuff to the offense a little bit start now offense made some plays the second possession and you know just consistent,” head coach George Quarles said. “You know, neither side I didn’t think was terribly consistent but kind of what you expect on the first first scrimmage.”
It was a seven-yard connection between Tyler Riddell and Will Huzzie that finally got the offense in the scoring column. It was just the spark the first-team needed, as they accounted for three of the team’s five touchdowns.
“I’m just glad I got to be the person to start the offense getting going a little bit,” Huzzie said. “If it has to be like that for the season – if I have to be the guy to get the offense going, I’m down to do that. I’ll do whatever for my guys.”
Huzzie finished the day with two catches for 14 yards and the touchdown. Josh Purcell (1 rec., 17 yds.) and Xavier Gaillardetz (3 rec., 45 yds.) also caught TD passes, while Adrian Johnson (5 rush, 115 yds.) accounted for the final score.
Quarles believes one of Riddell’s greatest strengths as a football player is his ability to remain level-headed. The redshirt-junior signal caller believes everyone on offense embodied that mindset on Saturday.
“There’s going to be good plays and they’re going to be bad plays,” Riddell said. “And, you know, our defense is one of the best there is. So they’re always going to make their play. So, just being able to to play the next play is important.”
Riddell took all the snaps with the first-team offense, completing 12-of-14 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns. He also pulled an option handoff to score a 26-yard TD with his legs.
“I didn’t know T[yler] was a runner until that,” Huzzie smirked.
The players will receive two off days this week – Sunday and Wednesday – before a second and final scrimmage on fall camp next Saturday.
“I think we’ve come a long way in this week and half,” Quarles said. “I think we’ve gotten better and we got a long way to go, but we’re taking steps in the right direction.”